Mushrooms are taxonomically clearly distinct from plants and animals (and other kingdoms), but in "cuisine taxonomy" they are typically included in plants. The word "vegetables" in a restaurant's menu can well include mushrooms — no matter how much I personally dislike this inclusion.

I would like to know whether the Romans saw mushrooms as plants or vegetables. Are there passages in Roman literature that discuss or hint at the inclusion or exclusion of mushrooms within plants? Any mention like "mushrooms and plants", "mushrooms and other plants", or "mushrooms are plants" would be interesting. Any word for "mushroom" or "plant" is possible, for example boletus and holus. The context can be food or taxonomy. I did not manage to find anything. (I purposely decided to leave the question broad, since I fear there is not much relevant extant material.)

  • 3
    It might be worthwhile looking at Aristotle or other Greek writers on botany -- though this wouldn't directly tell you what the Romans thought, it could be relevant as much or most Roman science was taken from the Greeks.
    – TKR
    Commented May 28, 2017 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Apparently yes.

Although I haven't found any explicitly Roman source, all evidence point to fungi being considered plants at their time, and into the XX century. This is what I have found so far:

  • The author of De Plantis I. 4. 30 considered them plants. The book is attributed to Aristotle (in which case the original is Greek, and the translator unknown, but also to Nicolaus of Damascus who would have written it in the I century BC (thanks brianpck:)

    Item plantae sunt nec ramos habentes nec folia, ut fungi et tuberes

  • According to Wikipedia "the seminal work in the development of mycology is considered to be the publication of Pier Antonio Micheli's 1729 work Nova plantarum genera". The title itself is eloquent in telling that they were considered plants at the time.

  • Linnaeus in his Sistema Naturae (XVIII century) classified everything in nature into three Kingdoms, namely animals, plants and minerals. (Regum animale, vegetabile, and lapideum.) Modern taxonomical kingdoms started from these.) Apparently this was still taught on schools in the mid-XX century.
  • The distinction of fungi from plants seems to be XX century science (possibly requiring modern genetics to tell them appart.)

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